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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Dreams Do Come True: Karen Walker Builds a Legacy of Health at Sunshine Discount Vitamins

Jan 02, 2013 03:08PM ● By Linda Sechrist

Holt and Karen Walker

When Karen Walker bought Sunshine Discount Vitamins in 1996 from longtime Naples resident Ian McKeag, she wasn’t thinking about choosing a job she loved so that she never had to “work” a day in her life. Instead, she was caught up in feeling the sense of delight and satisfaction that came from realizing a lifelong dream—owning her own nutritional supplement store.

A degree in home economics from East Tennessee State University helped to satisfy Walker’s insatiable appetite for information about good nutrition. It also sated her curiosity about how to make delicious, healthy meals and eat right for optimal health. “My education served my family well,” says Walker, who recalls that even in her 20s, a health food store was her favorite place to hang out and talk to people about the benefits of nutritional supplements. “I realize that I’ve been blessed to turn a hobby into a career,” she enthuses.

In 1988, Walker began working as a sales representative for Twinlab, a brand she carries in her store. “While I didn’t like being on the road all the time, I did enjoy educational seminars at the company’s headquarters, in Ronkonkoma, New York. I liked going to trade shows, where I had the chance to learn from the owners of many of the brand names that are on my shelves today. All my experience from that side of the supplement business helped me determine which brands to carry in the store,” says Walker, who believes her customers appreciate that the business is family owned and operated. “My son Holt joined me in 2001 and in 2004, he opened our second location. In 2010, we decided to consolidate our resources into one store, which gave us the opportunity to combine our staff and expertise, as well as to deliver the best service to our customers,” she explains.

“I believe there are two main reason that the store has been such a success. I’ve always given customers what they want, and I treat them as I want to be treated, which means giving them the added benefit of a nutritionist, George Miller, who they can talk with. Holt shares this philosophy, so I know the store’s success will continue,” advises Walker, who now only works one day a week at the store. “I will be 70 years old in February, and it’s great that my customers and others get to see that how I’ve been taking care of myself all these years is paying off. I’m holding together nicely,” Walker says with a big smile.

Location: 2608 Tamiami Trail N, Naples. For more information call 239-436-6659 or visit

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